When we spoke to Launch Board Shop owner John Causland in April, he’d just relocated his skateboard shop to Packard from South University (Marketplace Changes, May). He’d been told that landlord Hughes Properties needed his space to temporarily house Ulrich’s Bookstore while developer Ron Hughes replaces its location of more than eighty years with a ten-story student housing project.
Causland wasn’t the only one who thought Ulrich’s would move immediately into Launch’s spot. According to a bookstore employee, the staff was told, “‘May first, you guys will be in the skate shop.’ So to us, all of us felt like we were good … we’d all still have our jobs.”
Instead of looking for new jobs, they began to prepare for the move. But then “the regional manager, the group vice president, and the guy who does the contracts took two weeks all together off for vacation,” the employee says. “So from April first to April fourteenth, we had no information at all … We started clearance-ing everything, we started trying to figure out what we were keeping, what we weren’t, but because there was no official communication from Follett, we didn’t know what to keep.” It was only in mid-month, when they asked about their May schedules, that management told them they wouldn’t be working after all.
Older townies and U-M alums will remember Follett’s textbook store at State and North University. Back then, Follett’s and Ulrich’s were cross-Diag rivals, but recently their ownership converged. The Ulrich family sold the store (though not the real estate) to Nebraska Book Company in 1986. Nebraska Book went bankrupt in 2010, reorganized, and was sold to Follett in 2015.
Our source says Follett management told a few employees they could transfer to a warehouse in Romulus. Others were told they could come back when the temporary store opens–which, they were now told, would be in July.
Neither Follett nor Hughes responded to questions in mid-May. Though Ulrich’s website said the store would be relocating “in a few short weeks,” there was no sign that a buildout had even begun at the former Launch building.